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    Thursday, July 19, 2018-1:38:54A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Hocog OK’s $3.5M retiree bonus

ACTING Gov. Victor B. Hocog on Friday signed House Bill 20-145, authorizing the appropriation of $22 million from the Saipan casino Gross Revenue Tax account for the payment of the 25 percent of the Settlement Class members’ full benefits and bonuses. Introduced by Speaker Ralph Demapan, the bill is now Public Law 20-35.

It sets aside $3.5 million of the $22 million casino gross revenue tax for bonus payments to be equally distributed to all retirees and beneficiaries.

According to the administration, following the signing of the bill, the Department of Finance notified the Settlement Fund of the available funding in accordance with Public Law 20-35. Official disbursement of the payments is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, subject to the Settlement Fund’s appropriate action.

Secretary of Finance Larrisa Larson said the Settlement Agreement prevents the implementation of a cost-of-living allowance.

But because Gov. Ralph Torres recognizes that retirees are faced with increased cost-of-living expenses, Larson said the administration remains committed to releasing an annual bonus to retirees in place of the COLA until such time that the Settlement Agreement ends and the COLA can be reinstated.

Acting Gov. Victor B. Hocog is joined by Speaker Rafael S. Demapan, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios, and members of the House of Representatives during the signing of House Bill 20-129 on Friday in the governor’s conference room.  Office of the Governor photoActing Gov. Victor B. Hocog is joined by Speaker Rafael S. Demapan, Senate President Arnold I. Palacios, and members of the House of Representatives during the signing of House Bill 20-129 on Friday in the governor’s conference room. Office of the Governor photo

“We are pleased to inform retirees and beneficiaries that the bonus will soon be available and we remind all retirees that this bonus is subject to taxes and must be filed as part of your tax filing in April of next year,” Larson said in a statement.

“Last year, each retiree received just over $1,200 and Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Hocog and the Legislature are very pleased that we are able to appropriate funding for bonuses again and are very grateful going into the new year.”

Acting Governor Hocog said Torres remains committed to ensuring the security of benefits for retirees and is very pleased to appropriate another bonus to retirees and their beneficiaries this year.

“I am happy to announce that I have also signed House Bill 20-129 into Public Law 20-34 to address further concerns of the Settlement Fund trustee and to reserve funds generated from the casino Gross Revenue Tax. This prioritizes and earmarks the first $22 million of the casino GRT which is put in place so that our retirees and their beneficiaries can continue to receive their hard-earned pensions. Along with Governor Torres, it is our hope to continue this work of progress together as we press forward in the coming year. We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. May God bless you with peace and joy in the year ahead,” Hocog said.

The administration said that due to differences in criteria and the timing of the holidays, retirees and beneficiaries with any concerns must contact the Settlement Fund directly.